There is a rope
extending from Sully's table at the entrance to the ring used for sparring
sessions. To the left of the ring are wooden benches for spectators, seldom
used unless Ali or some other famous fighter is in town. In a near corner is
Chris Dundee's desk, with a cracked glass top and a telephone with a lock on
the dial. Chris is well aware of the propensity of the fight crowd for making
long-distance telephone calls. Whenever someone calls up asking for money,
Dundee feigns deafness.
Not long ago, one
such call was made collect, and Dundee went into his act with the operator. She
persisted while he stayed calm; he couldn't hear her. She spoke back to the
caller, and once again Dundee professed not to be able to hear. "I guess
we've got a bad connection, honey," he said. The voice on the other end
grew frantic: "I can hear him, operator. Tell him I need five hundred bucks
today to bail out of a jam."
"I can't hear
a thing, operator," Dundee said.
The operator grew
exasperated. "Well, I can hear him perfectly well, Mr. Dundee. He says he
needs five hundred dollars."
"If you can
hear him, honey," Dundee said, "you loan him the five hundred."
Chris' brother, Angelo Dundee, may be the softest touch in all of boxing.
Angelo still has one old fighter borrowing money who has not fought in five
years, nor will he ever fight again. Once every month he labors up the dark
flight of stairs at the Fifth Street Gym, dons his fighting togs and reels
around the floor in a pathetic pantomime of a boxer training for a bout. At the
end of this sad exhibition, he touches Angelo for the monthly loan. Angelo is
now down more than $10,000 to this man. So much for the typical picture of the
bloodthirsty trainer who is still sucking money from a finished fighter.
This is the Fifth
Street Gym and its people. This is where, years ago, my association with Ali
called to say he was sending over a new kid for a cold shot. He also said that
this was the new kid they were high on and to treat him extra nice. As I was
hanging up, a young giant walked into the office and began a nonstop
conversation that has lasted 14 years.
impression of Cassius Clay was that he was very nervous and was covering up his
anxiety with whistling-in-the-graveyard type of talk. He was certainly a superb
specimen, and he was certainly handsome, and he really could talk. Now if he
could only fight.
On this quiet day
in my office in the central Miami black ghetto, Clay was mainly intent on
talking me out of the shot and into giving him oral medication. (Through 14
years he has taken hundreds of needles from me, but he has changed little in
his dislike of them.) We did a slow bullfight ver�nica, with me as the matador
and Clay as the bull. He twisted and turned until finally I lunged at him and